Rangers vs. Kings: The Biggest Takeaways from the 2014 Stanley Cup Final

James Onusko@@jonuskoContributor IIIJune 14, 2014

Rangers vs. Kings: The Biggest Takeaways from the 2014 Stanley Cup Final

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    The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup after another thrilling overtime victory over the New York Rangers, per CBC

    While the series ended in just five games, it was no easy road for the Kings, with three of their victories being decided in overtime.

    It is difficult to argue that they were merely lucky, but they certainly enjoyed an element of good fortune throughout much of the series.

    But make no mistake: The Kings were the better team.

    Let's take a look at the biggest takeaways from the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

Justin Williams Was Exceptional

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    Justin Williams was the most consistent player in the series and indeed the entire playoffs.

    The talented forward was awarded with the Conn Smythe Trophy, per NHL.com, and it was well-deserved.

    He posted seven points in the Stanley Cup Final and was counted on to both score and defend when the Kings needed both the most.

    The 32-year-old native of Cobourg, Ontario, embodies the Kings as a group. He is extremely competitive, gritty and talented.

    He was the best of the best in this year's playoffs.

Rick Nash and Brad Richards Were Not Good Enough

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    Veterans Brad Richards and Rick Nash were not good enough for the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final. Nash had his moments when he was effective, but they were fleeting.

    Combined, these two forwards make more than $14 million each season. This creates huge expectations that this pair could not live up to.

    They combined for 22 points and a minus-three rating in the playoffs. 

    The Kings kept them at the bay throughout the entire series. Nash was held pointless, and Richards got one assist in Game 5.

    Don't be shocked if the organization buys out Richards this summer. His contract is an albatross in many ways.

Big and Fast Beats Small and Fast

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    There was a lot of focus on the Rangers' speed and skill in this series. The Kings are perceived by many as a big and heavy team.

    All of that is correct, but there is far too little emphasis on Los Angeles' team speed. Most of the individual players, outside of a couple of depth defenders, are very fast.

    Additionally, the team play, in terms of puck movement, was at a high pace. The Rangers could not handle the pace at times as they were beaten wide and when the Kings came in waves.

    The Kings dominated third-period play and in the overtime sessions because they were well-conditioned, big and skilled.

    Players like Jeff Carter, Dwight King and young Tanner Pearson were some of the best examples of this superiority.

The Rangers' Third Line Was Their Best

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    The line of Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello was the Rangers' best line in the series. They made life miserable for the Kings on most of their shifts.

    The line put up points throughout the series and defended well when they had to. The players are a great blend of skill, speed and moxie. 

    Zuccarello was one of the smallest players in the series, but he didn't back down from the Kings at any turn.

    Pouliot is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Rangers would do well to re-sign him.

    If the entire Rangers roster had matched the intensity that this line displayed throughout the series, the team might have went further than Game 5.

Kings Proved West Is Best

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    The Los Angeles Kings finished third in the Pacific Division this year. It was easily the most competitive division in hockey.

    The Kings were one of five or six teams that would have been worthy representatives from the West. The San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues and, of course, the Chicago Blackhawks were all big, talented, highly skilled squads.

    All of these teams would have been favoured in the Stanley Cup Final series against the Rangers.

    It could be argued that the Boston Bruins were the only Eastern Conference team that would have matched up well against the top teams from the West.

    The Kings are going to be good for a number of years, but winning their division could be daunting next season. Dynasty talk is premature.

King Henrik Was Regal

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    If the Rangers had mounted the comeback or even pushed the series to six games, Henrik Lundqvist might have won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

    He was superb against the Kings and the reason that New York had a chance to win every game. He radiates composure and confidence. 

    There is no question that he was the best goalie in the playoffs. He posted an assist, a 2.14 goals-against average and an eye-popping .927 save percentage.

    If he's not the best goaltender in the world today, he deserves to be in the conversation.

    All stats can be found on NHL.com unless otherwise noted.

    All salary-related information is from CapGeek.com.